The story be­hind one of the most un­usual Porsche-pow­ered rac­ers of all time

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Gary Horstko­rta Pho­tos: Ken Crow­ell and Gary Critcher/the Su­per­charged Col­lec­tion

As the United States re­bounded from the Great De­pres­sion of the 1920s, many young men turned their at­ten­tion to more light-hearted pur­suits, per­haps as a way to over­come the gloomy, aus­tere days they had re­cently en­dured. Like the dry lakes rac­ing craze that swept South­ern Cal­i­for­nia be­gin­ning in the late 1920s, midget short track rac­ing was a new and rapidly grow­ing sport in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, be­gin­ning in the early 1930s.

Re­sem­bling minia­ture ver­sions of In­di­anapo­lis 500 rac­ers of the day, the first midget race­cars were home­built spe­cials pri­mar­ily util­is­ing mo­tor­cy­cle en­gines. Run on short, one-fifth­mile dirt oval race tracks, these race cars pro­vided ex­cit­ing, fast-paced ac­tion, and quickly at­tracted grow­ing num­bers of pay­ing spec­ta­tors.

The first or­gan­ised midget race­car oval race in the United States was held in Sacramento, Cal­i­for­nia on June 4, 1933. Sanc­tioned by the newly cre­ated Midget Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (MRA), this first race at­tracted ten com­peti­tors, among them, a twenty-year old Oak­land res­i­dent, Al Stein. A ma­chin­ist by trade, Stein had been fas­ci­nated with any­thing me­chan­i­cal from an ear­lier age and was al­ways will­ing to try some­thing new.

Set­ting aside his mo­tor­cy­cle, he took up midget rac­ing and even­tu­ally ap­plied his me­chan­i­cal knowl­edge to build­ing his own midget rac­ers. As this sport be­gin to grow in pop­u­lar­ity, so too did the num­ber of newly-built oval tracks in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, which ap­peared in Emeryville, Alameda, Vallejo, Alviso, Stock­ton, San Fran­cisco, Fresno and Bak­ers­field.

The MRA soon gave way to a new or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Short Track Au­to­mo­bile Rac­ing (STAR) with Al Stein as one of its lead­ing driv­ers. Stein was not only an ex­cel­lent driver but an early in­no­va­tor in car con­struc­tion and his cars re­flected his will­ing­ness to try new ideas, which in­cluded us­ing a va­ri­ety of two and three cylin­der en­gines in search of the win­ning edge.

Win­ning was some­thing he was do­ing reg­u­larly, so much in fact he was STAR cham­pion three years in a row, 1935–37. Af­ter a break in 1938 due to in­jury, he re­turned to the track in 1939, fin­ish­ing the sea­son fourth in points. His good friend and fel­low midget racer, Skeets Jones, won the ti­tle in 1938–39 and would play an im­por­tant part in Steinʼs In­di­anapo­lis 500 plans twenty-five years later.

Stein con­tin­ued to race for the next two years with mod­er­ate suc­cess but he fi­nally gave in to his wife Pa­tri­ci­aʼs re­quest that he re­tire from driv­ing. Pa­tri­cia had a unique per­spec­tive on the sub­ject as she was ini­tially a fan of midget rac­ing then raced her­self af­ter meet­ing and mar­ry­ing Stein dur­ing his 1936 cham­pi­onship sea­son. Af­ter hang­ing up his hel­met, and with the dark clouds of World War II gath­er­ing over­head, Stein be­came part of the war ef­fort when he was re­cruited to ap­ply his ex­pert ma­chin­ing skills in the lo­cal ship­yard, where he would work un­til the end of the war. When peace was de­clared Stein went back to work in the pri­vate sec­tor, fo­cus­ing on his tool and die busi­ness, and build­ing midget race cars.

While oval track and sports car rac­ing was grow­ing by leaps and bounds af­ter World War II, the two most im­por­tant races in the world were the Le Mans 24 Hours and the In­di­anapo­lis 500. For an oval track racer like Stein,


In­di­anapo­lis was the Mecca of his rac­ing world, so it was no sur­prise that he be­gan to think about build­ing his dream car, an In­di­anapo­lis 500 road­ster.

Be­gin­ning in the late 1940s, and for the next fif­teen years, Stein would con­tin­u­ally sketch car de­signs, all the while sav­ing as much money as pos­si­ble to fund such a project. One thing was cer­tain, his dream In­di­anapo­lis racer would be an in­no­va­tive de­sign, like the nu­mer­ous midget rac­ers he had built and raced in the past.

It was one of his for­mer midget rac­ing bud­dies, Jay Ei­tel, who in­ad­ver­tently pro­vided him with an un­ex­pected op­por­tu­nity. Prior to World War II, Ei­tel had raced midgets for two years then turned to build­ing en­gines. Af­ter the war, Ei­tel stayed in touch with Stein and at­tended as many of the midget races as he could. In the mid-1950s, heʼd in­vented the ʻcherry picker ʼ, a de­vice mounted on a truck chas­sis, as used by tele­phone com­pa­nies to work on over­head lines.

Ei­tel spent a great deal of time trav­el­ling the USA pro­mot­ing his prod­uct but he ar­ranged his sched­ule so he could at­tend the In­di­anapo­lis 500 ev­ery year. One of his sup­pli­ers for the truck chas­sis was Allison Trans­mis­sion which was based in In­di­anapo­lis. As a re­sult, Ei­tel was a VIP guest of the com­pany at Indy each year and, with pit pass in hand, be­came a reg­u­lar fix­ture in Gaso­line Al­ley for the month of May.

Ei­tel re­calls a con­ver­sa­tion with Stein, ʻOne day, I think it was in 1964, I was at home talk­ing with Al about Indy and how much fun I was hav­ing there each year, strolling through Gaso­line Al­ley, talk­ing with the me­chan­ics, driv­ers, etc. Al said he wanted to go to Indy and then asked me if he flew to In­di­anapo­lis, could I pick him up at the air­port, find him a ho­tel and show him around Indy? Well, I agreed so we made plans for that year ʼs 500.ʼ

As agreed, Ei­tel made all the ar­range­ments and, af­ter ar­riv­ing at the track, he acted as the tour guide, show­ing Stein ev­ery­thing there was to see. While sit­ting in the grand­stands watch­ing qual­i­fy­ing runs, the con­ver­sa­tion turned to a ru­mour they had over­heard re­gard­ing a change in

en­gine dis­place­ment for the fol­low­ing year ʼs race.

Stein re­mem­bers, ʻThey (USAC) were talk­ing about re­duc­ing the en­gine size to 180 cu­bic inches to en­cour­age more Euro­peans to en­ter the race, and I said there wonʼt be any suit­able en­gines in the USA for a cou­ple of years if they did this. The smart thing to do would be to get a cou­ple of the four-cylin­der Porsche Car­rera en­gines, put one in the front, one in the back and youʼve got 180 cu­bic inches. We talked about it for a while but I thought we were just hav­ing fun – I never thought any­thing would come of it.ʼ

Af­ter the visit to Indy, and when Ei­tel re­turned home from his busi­ness trip a few weeks later, Stein told him he was go­ing to see about buy­ing a cou­ple of Porsche en­gines and start build­ing his Indy race­car. Ei­tel re­mem­bers his re­ac­tion, ʻYou could have knocked me over with a feather, I could­nʼt be­lieve he was ac­tu­ally go­ing to try and build a twin-en­gined car es­sen­tially from scratch!ʼ

Apart from the ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion at Indy be­tween Ei­tel and Stein about en­gines, there was one other per­son who no doubt in­flu­enced Steinʼs In­di­anapo­lis dream car de­signs: his for­mer friend, Lou Fa­geol. Fa­geol and Stein were child­hood friends with sim­i­lar in­ter­est. Fa­geolʼs fa­ther was one of the founders of Fa­geol Trac­tor and Truck Com­pany, with a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in nearby Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia.

Like Stein, Fa­geol grew up around me­chan­i­cal de­vices and was soon show­ing an in­ter­est in fast ve­hi­cles but, un­like Stein, who turned to mo­tor­cy­cles and race­cars, Fa­geol was more fo­cused on speed­boats. With a size­able for­tune earned from his com­pany which built the Twin Coach tran­sit buses (so named for hav­ing two en­gines), he grad­u­ated from rac­ing small speed­boats to a se­ries of big, fast hy­droplanes, cul­mi­nat­ing in his win­ning the Gold Cup race in 1954 aboard owner Stan Say­ersʼ fa­mous boat, Slo-mo-shun V.

How­ever, Fa­geol was not solely en­am­oured with rac­ing fast boats. In 1946 he turned his at­ten­tion to auto rac­ing and de­cided to build a car for the In­di­anapo­lis 500. Like his friend Stein, Fa­geol was an in­no­va­tor and the car he built was truly a unique de­sign. He took two 1.47-litre Of­fen­hauser midget rac­ing en­gines, added Roots-type su­per­charg­ers and placed one at each end of his bul­bous, bul­let shaped car.

This of­fered ex­cel­lent weight distri­bu­tion, four-wheel drive and a po­ten­tially fast and good han­dling car. Although it weighed a hefty 2500lbs, driver Paul Russo qual­i­fied the car, named the Twin Coach Spe­cial, and was sec­ond fastest at 126.183mph. In the race, Russo ran with the lead­ers un­til the 16th lap when he lost con­trol and crashed into a re­tain­ing wall.

Six years later, in 1952, Fa­geol de­cided to try sports car rac­ing and built an­other unique car, a 356 Porsche with two 356 Porsche en­gines. This was fol­lowed one year later with a new car which looked like a three-nosed rocket ship due to the air­craft drop tanks used to fash­ion the body. Once again the car was pow­ered by two 356 en­gines which he even­tu­ally su­per­charged.

Fa­geol raced this cre­ation for the next three years all over the USA, achiev­ing sev­eral top five fin­ishes. Un­for­tu­nately, the car was de­stroyed in a crash at Peb­ble Beach in 1955, Fa­geol es­cap­ing with mi­nor in­juries but ef­fec­tively end­ing his auto rac­ing ca­reer.

Re­mem­ber­ing his friend Lou Fa­geolʼs in­no­va­tive and suc­cess­ful In­di­anapo­lis and sports car ef­forts, and the con­ver­sa­tion he had with Ei­tel at Indy, Stein de­cided on a twin-en­gined car with four-wheel drive for im­proved han­dling and a low pro­file for less wind re­sis­tance. He felt these at­tributes would pro­vide him with an ad­van­tage over the tra­di­tional Offy pow­ered Indy Road­sters.

His first step was to se­cure en­gines for the car, so Stein sought out the best Porsche tuners in the area. It just so hap­pened that down the road from his busi­ness was the


shop run by well-known Porsche tuners and rac­ers, Lukes & Shor­man. Lukes & Shor­man op­er­ated a Volk­swa­gen and Porsche re­pair busi­ness but also built a rep­u­ta­tion for tun­ing and pre­par­ing Porsche en­gines, and whose race cars won nu­mer­ous, lo­cal SCCA races.

Tom Man­ning, an en­gine me­chanic and SCCA racer with Lukes & Shor­man re­calls, ʻOne day, this fel­low (Stein) walks in and asks about buy­ing a cou­ple of Porsche en­gines. Be­fore long, sev­eral of us were en­gaged in con­ver­sa­tion about how he in­tended to use them. We told him we could sup­ply the en­gines and per­form the tun­ing.ʼ With this as­pect of his car taken care of, Stein went off to fi­nalise the de­sign.

There was one ma­jor change be­fore the frame fab­ri­ca­tion be­gan and that was the in­tro­duc­tion of the new Porsche 911, with its flat-six en­gine. Upon hear­ing of this, Stein con­tacted Fred Ernst, who was a dis­patcher and shop fore­man for John­son Pa­cific, the Vw/porsche dealer in Oak­land. Stein told Ernst about his Indy plans and the two of them spent a day tak­ing mea­sure­ments from the new en­gine/trans­mis­sion of a re­cently im­ported 911. With Ern­stʼs help, Stein was able to or­der three en­gines from Porsche in Ger­many.

With the 911 en­gines on the way, Stein re­turned to Lukes & Shoman to dis­cuss hav­ing them mod­ify and tune them. Man­ning re­calls the re­ac­tion of Lukes & Shor­man to this change of en­gines, ʻFrankly we thought it was not a good idea. The 2.0-litre, four-cylin­der Porsche en­gines were prac­ti­cally bul­let-proof, pro­duced enough horse­power and were much lighter than the new, un­proven, 911 en­gine which we had never seen be­fore. We rec­om­mend he stay with the four-cylin­der en­gine and use Hal­i­brand rearends. Un­for­tu­nately, he was set on us­ing the more pow­er­ful 911 en­gine.ʼ

For the chas­sis, Stein sketched out a tube frame and turned to his friend and for­mer em­ployee, Joe Huf­faker of BMC fame, to build it. When Huf­faker had moved from his na­tive In­di­ana to Cal­i­for­nia af­ter World War II he found a job as a welder at Steinʼs shop build­ing midget race­cars. Stein taught Huf­faker a good deal about build­ing cars which he would put to good use a few years later when he teamed up with Bri­tish car im­porter, Kjell Qvale to form the BMC Com­pe­ti­tion Depart­ment.

Huf­faker re­calls ʻI built the frame and run­ning gear for Al but it was sort of a work in progress. I was pre­par­ing our own MG Liq­uid Sus­pen­sion Spe­cials for Indy and had to squeeze in work­ing on Alʼs project at the same time. I was a bit puz­zled by the logic of his con­cept but there is no ques­tion, his de­sign was cer­tainly dif­fer­ent.ʼ Based on Steinʼs de­sign, Huf­faker fab­ri­cated a beau­ti­fully-made, tri­an­gu­lated, chromem­oly tube-frame to ac­com­mo­date the twin-porsche en­gines and as­so­ci­ated run­ning gear. Stein took the frame back to his home garage in the San Fran­cisco East Bay city of Orinda to be­gin as­sem­bling the car.

Along with sourc­ing all the nec­es­sary bits and pieces for the car ʼs as­sem­bly, Stein also put to­gether a team of friends,

mostly from his midget rac­ing days, to help work on the car. Skeets Jones, an elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer and for­mer Midget cham­pion, would be­come the crew chief. Other crew mem­bers in­cluded Jay Ei­tel, By­ron Feld­haker, Bert Tru­body, Ken Crow­ell, and Heinz Ham­ster (from Lukes and Shor­man) as Chief Me­chanic.

Once the en­gines ar­rived they were taken to Lukes & Shor­man for mod­i­fi­ca­tion and tun­ing. The en­gines were dis­as­sem­bled, the cylin­ders over-bored, fit­ted with forged pis­tons and the com­pres­sion in­creased to 11.5 to 1. Based on these mod­i­fi­ca­tions and with a fuel mix of al­co­hol and nitro, the en­gines were pro­jected to de­velop ap­prox­i­mately 210bhp each. This would give the car a sig­nif­i­cant power ad­van­tage over the lower horse­power Indy road­sters.

Be­sides the two-en­gine con­fig­u­ra­tion the car had sev­eral other unique fea­tures in­clud­ing a hy­drauli­cally-op­er­ated throt­tle sys­tem; a link­age con­nect­ing both Porsche gear­boxes to a sin­gle gear shift and the gear­boxes turned up­side down to al­low for mount­ing the en­gines lower in the chas­sis.

Dur­ing the en­gine tun­ing process, Lukes & Shor­man found the Solex car­bu­ret­tors would not al­low the mod­i­fied en­gine to run up to ex­pec­ta­tions. Porscheʼs help was sought to se­cure Weber car­bu­ret­tors as re­place­ments, but the re­quest fell on deaf ears – in fact Porsche was not the least bit in­ter­ested in the project and would of­fer no help at all. A so­lu­tion was found by adopt­ing dual throat, Weber 48 IDA car­bu­ret­tors to each six-cylin­der en­gine. How­ever, since the IDAS had more in­take throats than were needed, one throat was blocked off on one car­bu­ret­tor on each side.

While his vol­un­teer ʻcrewʼ spent nu­mer­ous hours at night and on week­ends work­ing on the car, it was Stein who did the ma­jor­ity of the work, spend­ing the money he had dili­gently saved for so many years to buy parts and sup­plies. 1966 ar­rived and with it the need to have the car in In­di­anapo­lis on the first of May, but the project was al­ready run­ning be­hind sched­ule, and Ei­tel and Man­ning could see po­ten­tial prob­lem ar­eas with the car.

Ei­tel rec­om­mended us­ing only one trans­mis­sion and two clutches to save weight; Man­ning thought the half-shafts were too heavy at 22 pounds each (they were taken from a 4WD Lan­cia), the 911 en­gines were un­proven, the com­mon oil tank a bad idea, and there was no need for a front nose air open­ing. Man­ning re­calls think­ing, ʻI never knew what the car weighed but with all those com­po­nents and large gas tanks, it sure looked heavy.ʼ

Un­for­tu­nately, their rec­om­men­da­tions were ig­nored. Ei­tel would later learn as the car was be­ing air freighted to In­di­anapo­lis that it weighted a bit over 2000lbs, giv­ing away sev­eral hun­dred pounds to the front-en­gined Indy road­sters.

With the first of May fast ap­proach­ing, the team hur­riedly com­pleted the car so they could test it be­fore ship­ping it to In­di­anapo­lis. They ar­ranged to rent Vaca Val­ley Race­way which was pri­mar­ily used by the SCCA for sports car races, but the road course also con­tained a short oval track. Stein had con­tracted with vet­eran Indy 500 driver Bill Chees­bourg to drive the car and he was present at the Vaca Val­ley test in early April.

Af­ter sev­eral runs around the oval in the un­painted car, Chees­bourg reached 140mph and re­ported that the car han­dled well. How­ever, Stein was not sat­is­fied: he wanted more power so he ar­ranged with Lukes & Shor­man to have new camshafts made on a rush ba­sis. Un­for­tu­nately, due to a man­u­fac­tur­ing er­ror by the cam sup­plier, the new cast­ings

were ren­dered use­less. With only a few days re­main­ing be­fore the car was to be shipped, Stein turned to Weber En­gi­neer­ing to weld and re­pro­file the stock cams. Time ran out and the car was shipped to Indy on May 8, 1966…with­out a chance to test the new camshafts.

To say the teamʼs stay at Indy try­ing to qual­ify the car was frus­trat­ing would be an un­der­state­ment. Man­ning sums it up, ʻThe chas­sis seemed good, the hy­draulic throt­tle worked well, Chees­bourg liked the way the car han­dled, the com­pli­cated shift link­age was­nʼt very good as the car would jump out of gear, and we had con­stant prob­lems with the en­gines. I spent more than one night sleep­ing on the garage floor af­ter work­ing late into the night.ʼ Dur­ing prac­tice runs, the car was too slow, run­ning three sec­onds a lap slower than the slow­est qual­i­fier.

Chees­bourg could not get the en­gines up to the hoped-for 9000rpm, reach­ing only 7500 dur­ing his best run. When the re­worked stock cams ar­rived, they were in­stalled in the en­gines for an­other prac­tice run. Un­for­tu­nately, the lobes be­gan to break up al­most im­me­di­ately and, with the com­mon oil tank, all the frag­ments cir­cu­lated to both en­gines, with pre­dictable re­sults. With only one spare en­gine and no more money, Al Steinʼs dream of mak­ing the field at the 500 came to an end. He had stopped pay­ing for the crews ex­penses so ev­ery­one re­turned home be­fore the race was even run.

His dis­ap­point­ment at Indy was not Steinʼs only prob­lem for he had­nʼt paid Lukes & Shor­man for their en­gine work – they, in turn, sued Stein, plus, the IRS was be­gin­ning to ask ques­tions about his ex­penses. Stein de­cided to put the car in stor­age and lie low un­til the prob­lems blew over and that seemed, to ev­ery­one con­nected with the project, the end of the story.

How­ever, Stein still burned with the de­sire to prove his car could be com­pet­i­tive so he tin­kered with it for the next five months to im­prove its per­for­mance. With the help of a few close friends, he took the car to Vaca Val­ley for test­ing. With Stein be­hind the wheel, the car per­formed well enough that it was en­tered in the last USAC race of the year at Phoenix. Amaz­ingly, the car qual­i­fied with Chees­bourg driv­ing but the drive only lasted a few laps and the Stein/valvo­line Twin Spe­cial was not listed in the fi­nal re­sults.

Where the car went af­ter the Phoenix race re­mains a mys­tery to this day. Al Stein died in 1980 and with him, the carʼs fate. In 1988, Man­ning de­cided to try and lo­cate the car, which led to a stor­age shed be­hind Steinʼs for­mer home. In the shed was all that could be found of the car: a few body pan­els, a steer­ing wheel, ex­haust sys­tem and sus­pen­sion com­po­nents. What had hap­pened to the chas­sis, en­gines, wheels, etc?

Was the car bro­ken up or parted out to keep it from the IRS, or sold for some much needed cash? Re­gard­less of the car ʼs fate, Al Stein must have gained some level of sat­is­fac­tion from all his ef­fort and ex­pense, know­ing he had built his dream car and wit­nessed it run­ning ʻover the bricksʼ at the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speedway. CP


Above: Group photo of the pri­mary crew mem­bers taken at the Stein home. Left to right: Bert Tru­body, Skeets Jones, Jay Ei­tel, Al Stein Jr, Al Stein, with Bill Chees­bourg in the car

Below left: Al Stein was an ac­com­plished Midget racer in the 1930s

Below right: Ahead of the press pre­view, the crew take a break. Note the orig­i­nal Zenith car­bu­ret­tors still in place – these were later swapped for Weber IDAS

Below right: Within this garage set­ting, the project looks ev­ery bit like a home­built car. At this point, the twin-choke IDA We­bers have been in­stalled but not yet mod­i­fied to block off one of the un­needed throats

Below left: Early in the project, rather than us­ing the proven four-cylin­der Car­rera en­gines rec­om­mended by Lukes & Shor­man, Stein opted for the new, more pow­er­ful 911 en­gines

Above: While Bert Tru­body works on the front en­gine, the rest of the crew takes a break dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion at Indy. From left to right: Skeets Jones, Jay Ei­tel, Tom Man­ning (check shirt), with Ken Crow­ell talk­ing to driver Bill Chees­bourg (far right)

Below left: The Valvo­line Twin Spe­cial at Indy dur­ing prac­tice early in May 1966. Note the empty grand­stands. Chees­bourg was never able to get the car up to the speed nec­es­sary to qual­ify and even­tu­ally went look­ing for a bet­ter car to drive

Below right: It was when the car was air-freighted out to Indy that its true weight was re­vealed – at over 2000lbs it was sig­nif­i­cantly heav­ier than Of­fen­hauser-en­gined ri­vals

Below left: All that re­mains of the car to this day is this piece of body­work hang­ing on the wall of Steve Torp’s Clas­sic Au­to­body in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia

Above left: Stein (lean­ing on the car) and Bill Chees­bourg await the start of the USAC race at Phoenix. While Stein gained the sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing his car qual­ify and start the race, it failed to cover more than a few laps. This was the last time the car ever raced

Below right: Af­ter the dis­ap­point­ment of Indy, Stein kept the car out of sight, qui­etly work­ing to im­prove its per­for­mance. Here he is seen test­ing at Vaca Val­ley Race­way ahead of the USAC race at Phoenix

Above right: Friends gather at a test ses­sion at Vaca Val­ley Race­way in 1966

Below: One of the ground­crew of the TWA freight flight checks out the Twin Valvo­line Spe­cial, prob­a­bly won­der­ing what he was look­ing at. It could never be called a thing of beauty, but what an amaz­ing story lies be­hind its in­cep­tion

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